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Google being warned for manipulating search results

May 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Search Engine News

Google has been given weeks to find a solution to put right the underlined problems that the European Competition Commissioner has found after being warned about manipulating search results for its own gain.

Joaquin Almunia, EU’s anti-trust chief sent a letter to Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, listing the four concerns that had been underlined in the antitrust investigation that has been ongoing since November 2010. Microsoft and a few other rival companies made complaints back in 2010 when it came to their attention that Google had abused its dominant market position.

In the letter to the search engine giants chairmen, Almunia first stresses his and the European Competition Commissioners concerns for manipulation of search results and how competitors and receiving preferential treatment.                                                                                                                        “In its general search results, Google displays links to its own vertical search services differently than it does for links to competitors,” he said. “We are concerned that this may result in preferential treatment compared to those of competing services, which may be hurt as a consequence.

He then speaks of his second concern for Google not obeying copyright laws and using other search services content and calling it their own.                                                                                                    
  “Our second concern relates to the way Google copies content from competing vertical search services and uses it in its own offerings,” “Google may be copying original material from the websites of its competitors such as user reviews and using that material on its own sites without their prior authorization. In this way they are appropriating the benefits of the investments of competitors. We are worried that this could reduce competitors’ incentives to invest in the creation of original content for the benefit of Internet users. This practice may impact for instance travel sites or sites providing restaurant guides.”

Almunia then goes on to tell Schmidt the third concern that was bought up in the antitrust investigation.                                                                                                                                                    
  “Our third concern relates to agreements between Google and partners on the websites of which Google delivers search advertisements. Search advertisements are advertisements that are displayed alongside search results when a user types a query in a website’s search box,”The agreements result in de facto exclusivity requiring them to obtain all or most of their requirements of search advertisements from Google, thus shutting out competing providers of search advertising intermediation services. This potentially impacts advertising services purchased for example by online stores, online magazines or broadcasters.”

He then concludes his list of concerns to the search engine with his four points that was bought to the commissioner’s attention,                                                                                                                             “Our fourth concern relates to restrictions that Google puts to the portability of online search advertising campaigns from its platform AdWords to the platforms of competitors. AdWords is Google’s auction-based advertising platform on which advertisers can bid for the placement of search ads on search result pages provided by Google”. “We are concerned that Google imposes contractual restrictions on software developers which prevent them from offering tools that allow the seamless transfer of search advertising campaigns across AdWords and other platforms for search advertising.”

The commissioner then told Google he wishes for the matter to be solved straight away and that the investigation will be bought to a head a lot sooner if they respond to his letter with a solution to the ongoing problems.

Google spokesmen responded to the letter with,    
                                                                                                                                                                                                          “We’ve only just started to look through the Commission’s arguments. We disagree with the conclusions but we’re happy to discuss any concerns they might have. Competition on the web has increased dramatically in the last two years since the Commission started looking at this and the competitive pressures Google faces are tremendous. Innovation online has never been greater”.

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